February 1 is World Hijab Day, an initiative started by New York native Nazma Khan to end religious intolerance.

Nazma Khan, a New York native, initiated this global movement with the intent of bringing awareness on why Muslim women across the world wear hijab. Khan was reportedly abused both emotionally and physically for wearing a hijab and discrimination only heightened after the September 11 attacks.

On February 1, 2013, took to the Internet to urge other women, irrespective of their faith, to don the hijab for one day. The response she got was astounding, as in less than 10 days women residing in 67 different countries got in touch with her.

“By walking in my shoes for one day on February 1, women would see that I am no different from them,” the president and founder of the World Hijab Day Organisation explained to Al Jazeera.

“Perhaps, this one day experience will make them see the hijab in a different light.”

Since the 9/11 attacks, a number of incidents have been reported where Muslim women wearing hijabs have been targeted. They have been fired from jobs, denied access to public spaces and even harassed, either physically or verbally, just for using the headscarf.

Talya Leodari, a practitioner of Judaism, praised the event for helping her teach her children about respecting difference.

 “I participated in World Hijab Day and it was a good experience that I will repeat,” she said. “I live in a very small, very Christian town (in the US).  There were some strange looks and people were staring at me – and then looking away quickly when they realized I saw them looking. A few people seemed surprised that I spoke English. The fact that I was wearing hijab gave me the opportunity to talk to my step children about respect, difference, and peace.”
Endorsing the movement. New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said the World Hijab Day presents an opportunity for non-Muslims to learn about other religions. “I call everyone to demonstrate religious freedom by exercising tolerance and embracing the richness that diversity brings. When we show tolerance we recognize universal human rights and the fundamental freedoms of others. Our commitment to religious freedom must be congruent with our actions: We need to stand together to counter religious intolerance and hate.”